The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is accepting a business plan filed by Idaho Power Co. spelling out how the utility intends to treat the renewable energy certificates (RECs) it earns from its renewable energy sources. Customer groups have disagreed over whether the RECs, or green tags, should be sold to benefit customers or retired to meet possible future renewable energy standards.
RECs are becoming more valuable as a growing number of states require their regulated utilities to buy or generate a certain amount of power from renewable sources. Idaho Power's 101 MW Elkhorn Wind project in Oregon and its 13 MW Raft River geothermal project in south-central Idaho generated more than 320,000 MWh of RECs for Idaho Power in 2007 and 2008.
Last year, after reconsideration, the PUC directed Idaho Power to sell its 2007 and 2008 RECs and to use the approximately $1.7 million in proceeds to benefit ratepayers. Idaho Power originally requested that it be allowed to retire, rather than sell, the RECs in anticipation of federal or state renewable energy mandates. By retiring the RECs, Idaho Power said it could represent to renewable energy certification programs and to customers that it is meeting customer expectations for increased use of renewable energy.
According to Idaho Power, the Green-E standards prohibit the utility from using visuals of its wind or geothermal projects in charts, graphs or line art as part of the green resources delivered to customers if the green tags that accompany those projects are sold.
After the PUC granted Idaho Power's request to retire the tags, the Industrial Customers of Idaho Power petitioned for reconsideration, arguing the value associated with the RECs belongs to the ratepayers and should be sold to benefit them. On the other side of the issue, the Idaho Conservation League and the Renewable Northwest Project argued that the PUC should allow the utility to retire the RECs.
After reconsideration, the PUC directed the company to sell the RECs, but the order allowing them to be sold also required the company to submit a business plan on how it intends to treat REC sales in the future.
In April, Idaho Power submitted that plan, which proposes that, in the short term, the RECs be sold and the customers' share of the proceeds be returned to customers in the annual Power Cost Adjustment process. In the longer term, Idaho Power plans to continue acquiring and holding contractual rights to own the RECs in order to meet any possible future renewable energy standards.
The PUC, denying requests for further hearings or that the plan not be accepted, noted that accepting the plan as filed does not mean the PUC endorses its specifics.